This story first appeared in Triple Pundit November 22, 2012.
What can I say about Black Friday that hasn’t been said already?
How about ‘Is this thing sustainable? And if the conscious consumption set is horrified by it, do they have anything better to offer?’
I’m a consumer, and I love a deal. But somehow, Black Friday has become a shopping super PAC. It leaves me with a queasy feeling, like we’ve perverted the entire idea of why we shop. Lining up at 2am, we fight like hyenas over the carcass of a hi-def TV and, more often than not, go home feeling we bought crap we don’t need anyway.
I can’t help but think there’s a better way forward. My business is creating futureproof brands – and key to that exercise is tapping into nascent consumer insights. No matter which way I turn these days, those insights include conscious consumption.
So is anyone out there putting their innovation hats on and thinking of a better Black Friday? Yes, and no.
Seth Godin Hugging? Really?
Every day I get a great little thoughtstarter email called the Daily Good. This week, the DG sent me a link to Holstee’s Block Friday blog. The blog has collected videos from hundreds of folks, sounding off on how they’re blocking Friday. There’s even a hashtag so we can tweet in our favorite Friday Blocker.
What impressed me was the fact Holstee had placed Seth Godin’s video front and centre. Naturally, I clicked it. Seth told me that his alternative to hyperconsumption was hugging someone.
Oh Jesus. If anything could turn me into a hypershopper, it would be that video.
As I sat back and reflected on, well, the lack of anything to reflect on, I took a second look at the Block Friday logo. Then I made a connection I didn’t want to make. The ‘Block’ part of the equation reminded me of the reason strident environmentalism never caught on. Focusing on negative action is a bummer. It’s a bit like Mom telling you to wear your snowpants to school. You’ll do it, but you won’t like it – and as soon as you get close to school, you’ll take them off so you don’t look dorky in front of your friends.
The score stands at Hyperconsumption: 1. Futureproof alternative: 0.
When I told a colleague I was looking for smart solutions to Black Friday, he sent me this article from Atlantic Monthly. It describes all the reasons why Black Friday is not such a great deal. It’s well worth a read, especially if you have folks in your family who buy the hyperconsumption hype.
As I made my way through the piece, though, it depressed me. The bait and switch, the rebate rip-offs, the max-purchase store layouts – the tactics made me feel like a rube being convinced to play dice in an alley.
Part of my practice involves having companies dig deep into their reason for existing, and connecting that with consumer values. Generally the values we try to get to are those that ennoble both the company, and the consumer.
Ultimately, I believe this strategy will triumph – I already see it working for brands like Patagonia.
But it seems the real consumer-ennobling strategies are still thin on the ground.
Hyperconsumption: 2. Futureproof alternative: 0.
Small Sigh Of Futureproof Brand Relief
A few days back, I was sent a manifesto from a company here in Vancouver. Greenster, among other things, publishes a guidebook that connects shoppers with great deals on products vetted for their social and environmental credentials.
What caught me, though, was the spirit of the manifesto. Incredibly positive, dialled into the fact I love to shop, promising a better way forward. It even had a great, ennobling headline.
I’ve attached the complete manifesto here.
I want new prosperity. I want abundance. I want rich. If I were to write a brief for the futureproof brand alternative to Black Friday, this would be it.
So now we have a brief. Let’s get our innovation brains in gear.
Hyperconsumption: 2. Futureproof alternative: 1